Uber Drivers Have Earned $50 Million in Tips… But There Are 2 Million Drivers

Photo credit: Núcleo Editorial, CC BY 2.0.

A friend tipped me off to this Ars Technica article: “Uber drivers have made more than $50M in the first month of tipping.”

He also did the math for me: if Uber has 2 million drivers, then each driver made about $25.

The changes are part of a process the company is calling “180 Days of Change,” which it says will transform the driver experience for the 2 million people who drive for Uber each week. It began about two months ago with the notable addition of tipping to the app. Uber US and Canada manager Rachel Holt told several press outlets that the company’s drivers have earned $50 million in tips since that feature was added. In-app tipping became available nationwide in mid-July.

Now, sure. Maybe some drivers earned more tips than others. Not all Uber drivers put in the same number of hours behind the wheel, etc. Maybe the Uber drivers who really hustled earned… I don’t know, $50 in tips last month.

But that still isn’t a huge increase in driver pay—especially since the pay raise is coming from the people who are already paying to use the service.

Still, I guess it’s better than nothing.

I really only use Lyft at this point—and Lyft has given me the option to tip my driver from the beginning—so I was curious how Uber tips compare to Lyft tips.

I found a Lyft blog post from June that provides some insight:

Since our earliest days, Lyft has offered in-app tipping because it’s the right thing to do. After four years, Lyft drivers had earned $100 million in tips. Nine months after that, total tips doubled to $200 million.

Today, two and a half months later, we’re celebrating another milestone: Lyft drivers have now earned over a quarter billion dollars in tips.

Okay. So it took Uber drivers one month to earn $50 million in tips, and it took Lyft drivers 2.5 months to earn $50 million in tips. (Right? A quarter billion is $250 million, and it took them two-and-a-half months to go from $200 million to $250 million.)

Which means we have to figure out how many Lyft drivers there are.

This number is harder to find than I anticipated. There’s a Bloomberg article from 2015 where Lyft CEO John Brimmer states that Lyft has 100,000 drivers—a figure that is literally outdated—and a Lyft blog post from this July announcing that Lyft is now giving 1 million rides per day.

We could use that number to estimate that Lyft drivers are earning between $0.50–$1.00 in tips per ride, which also implies that a lot of people aren’t tipping, but I still don’t know whether they’re earning more than Uber drivers.

I can’t find a good source stating the number of rides Uber drivers make every day. However, there’s an Uber blog post from June announcing that Uber just gave its five billionth ride:

Uber started in 2010 to solve a simple problem: how do you get a ride at the push of a button? In late 2015, we hit a big milestone: one billion trips. Six months later, we crossed two billion.

And just a few weeks ago, on Saturday, May 20, 156 trips started simultaneously at 7:29:06am GMT, putting us over the five billion mark.

We can guesstimate that Uber made three billion trips between May 2016 and May 2017, which averages to about 250 million trips per month or a little over 8.3 million trips per day.

So Uber drivers are making more trips than Lyft drivers by a factor of about 8.3, and earning more tips at a factor of about 2.5.

We still don’t know whether an individual Lyft driver is earning more tips than an individual Uber driver, and I think I’m going to have to turn that question over to you. I’d love to hear from someone who is driving for both Uber and Lyft; does one service earn you higher tips than the other?

And if you’ve ridden in an Uber in the past month: Did you tip? How much? Was it the same tip you’d give for an equivalent Lyft ride?

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